Category Archives: Preserving

Curing Olives

Olive GroveGreen OlivesA couple of weeks ago we were invited to help with the annual olive picking at our friends small olive farm.  It promised to be a fun day out, after a short journey north of Auckland to Paparoa.  This year was a ‘dormant’ year so there weren’t very many olives to pick, but it was still lots of fun, and included a wonderful picnic lunch in the barn (out of the cold southerly that was blowing!).  We were told that we could take some of the ‘eating’ olives home with us if we wanted to bottle them for eating…..Yup!  Just my kind of thing.  It would be fair to say that I probably took more home than was probably polite, but, well, um, I just couldn’t resist! 🙂

Black OlivesThen came the tricky bit, not the actual preparation that is required before bottling the olives, but actually working out what needed to be done!  There was so many options on the internet that I got all confused and didn’t know which option would the be the best one.  So, I just kind of ‘winged it’ and it seemed to work out all right.

Here’s what I did figure out.  You need to separate the black (ripe) ones from the green (not yet ripe) ones.  Then you need to break the skin so that you can soak them.  The point of the soaking is to get all the oleuropein out; that’s the stuff that makes them bitter.  In order to get this out the skin needs to be broken without damaging the stone (because it has even more oleuropein in it).  There were three main options from what I could figure:

1: smash with a rolling pin
2: using a knife, make a cut down the side of each olive
3: using a knife, cut a X across the bottom of the olive

We went with option 3, so hubby and I spent an hour cutting every olive.  I’m pleased that we picked this option as it make it easier to stone the olives later in the process.

Olives SoakingThe next step is to soak the olives.  Again there were SOOO many options.  In the end I went with covering the olives in water (we had one container each for the black and green) then I mixed about a 4:1 ratio of water to sea salt (don’t use iodised salt) which I had dissolved.  I would have added probably .75 – 1 cup to each container.  You then have to put things on top to keep the olives under the water line.  We used the lids from smaller containers and then weighed them down with some plates.  Each day you need to remove all the water, rinse and redo this.  The general idea is to keep doing this daily until the olives are no longer bitter.  The black olives were ready after about 12 days, and the green after 15.

Olives DryingThe final step is to rinse the olives and them put them into jars.   While I prepared the brine I put the black ones out in the sun to dry a bit because apparently it helps to bring back more of the black colour that you may have lost during the curing process.  I heated some water that was a 10:1 ratio of water to sea salt and brought it to a boil for a short while (until salt is all dissolved).  You can apparently do an egg test, which is that a raw egg will float if the brine is right.  I didn’t bother with this step.  When cooled I added a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar to the water for the black olives, and white wine vinegar for the green.  You just pack the olives into the jars…fairly tightly, but not too tight….and pour over the brine.  I then poured about half a centimetre of olive oil on the top to ‘seal’ it before putting the lid on.  Needless to say during this stage, the jars and lids need to be sterilised!  For the green olives, you can spice things up a bit by adding rosemary sprigs and peppercorns in with the brine.  Oh, and we stoned some of the black olives before bottling.

Last night we had some of the black ones on our home-made pizza and they were delicious!  Definitely worth all the effort.


Committed to the Figs

Fig PasteYesterday we visited some friends of ours for an impromptu afternoon tea, that turned into dinner and a couple of glasses of wine.  They live on an amazing property in north Auckland and have several fruit trees including a large fig tree.  I was offered some figs, which I eagerly accepted because I’ve never eaten them (as far as I can remember) and was excited at the prospect of what I could do with them.

20150427_123217This morning we woke to horrendous weather…..high winds, heaving rain.  Not the kind of weather than you voluntarily go out in unless you want to make Fig Paste and don’t have all the ingredients!  I wasn’t confident that the figs would last until next weekend so action had to be taken…..out in the weather I went, to the supermarket.

The Fig Paste looks like it turned out great, but as they say the proof is in the tasting which I’m about to do with some yummy cheese!

Fig Paste


  • 3 pounds fresh figs, stemmed, cut into quarters
  • 2.5 cups red wine, such as Syrah
  • 2 cups Jam Setting sugar
  • 1/3 cup bottled lemon juice
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons (1 tablespoon)


  1.  Place figs into a food processor and pulse until they are completely minced.
  2.  Place the figs into a saucepan with the wine, sugar and lemon juice/zest, and stir until the sugar dissolves and you are left with a clearer, deeper coloured mixture.
  3.  Allow to simmer over a low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. When it starts to thicken do setting tests on a chilled saucer until the paste is set like jam.
  4.  Pour the fig paste into sterilized jars until they are 2mm from the rim.

!HOT! Chili Sauce

Chili SauceMy husband is a BIG chili pepper fan so for the past few years we’ve always had one or two plants.  Some were successful (aka produced hot chilies, and lived), some not so much.  Unfortunately over Winter last year our two best plants died for some unknown reason.  The big problem, come Summer was that neither of us could remember what type of chili they were.

Chili PlantsSo, “Operation Chili Plant” was started.  We bought 6 different plants and have slowly over the Summer been testing them.  We’ve planted Apache, Fatalii, Habenaro, Serrano, Jalapeno and Thai Chili Hot.  In hindsight, we probably could have just looked on the Scoville Scale and used that as a guide….but oh well.  Getting Hubby to eat them is much more entertaining.

Most of the plants did really well, especially the Fatalii and Serrano plants.  We have patiently been waiting for them to turn red and over the Summer have picked a few, drying them either naturally or in the oven on a low heat (80degC) for 3-4 hours then grinding them into Chili Flakes.

Chili Sauce 2The past weekend we picked a big batch and decided to make Chili Sauce.  We searched the internet for recipes and came across this great site with a number of options.  We decided on the Fatalii Hot Sauce, but pretty much used all the chilis we had, so didn’t limit it to just Fataliis.

I have not tried the sauce….quite frankly I’m too scared to.  Hubby says it’s HOT HOT HOT!  Perfect!  Well….for him anyway.


One of the great things about heading into Winter…..Feijoas!

Grape Stomping 5 (copy)Over here in New Zealand we are heading into Winter.  For the many, many wine makers here that means a flurry of activity of grape harvesting, pressing etc etc.  We have some friends who own a boutique vineyard is the beautiful village of Matakana, which is just north of Auckland (close enough that many commute every day into the city for work).  We have helped out our friends over the years by picking grapes (all done by hand), bottling (I got the job of pushing the pedal that put the corks into the bottles one at a time!), and just last weekend we were asked to help with the ‘stomping’.

Grape Stomping 5 (copy)Last weekend, early Saturday morning we headed to the vineyard where my husband got to stand thigh deep in a mixture of grapes and the beginnings of what will become stunning red wine (a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec).  After the boys had siphoned the bulk of the wine into barrels, the fun bit began; stomping.  All the grapes were put into a special ‘basket press’ which I climbed into to walk on the grapes to get more of the juice out.  This step is done prior to the use of the mechanical press to eliminate potential mess of the excess juice spraying out the sides of the basket.  All our hard work was rewarded with our lovely hostess and long time friend serving us a traditional roast beef lunch……with of course fantastic Gillman Vineyard wine!

Feijoas 1So, what’s all of this go to do with Feijoas?  Nothing really except that they had a Feijoa tree on the vineyard so I took home a few kilos of them. 🙂  I actually had a quick Google of Feijoa, because a lot of immigrants I know don’t seem overly familiar with them.  It seems that they are not grown in many countries, and certainly not grown as a garden plant in the volumes like we do here.  So, if you haven’t tried one, I highly recommend you do if you ever get the chance.  They are delicious!

Feijoas 2With 3kgs of Feijoas, the obvious thing to do was to turn them into chutney, and the best recipe I have is a Roasted Feijoas Chutney recipe….not only because it’s yummy, but also because you roast them with the skins on making whole process far more bearable.  You can find the recipe here.  Note that you have to start the night before!  I lined my roasting dish with tin foil, but I won’t do that again as I don’t think it made any difference to the cleaning up process.  I also couldn’t fit it all into my roasting dish initially, so I used a second tray and after an hour of so I poured one into the other.  Before putting into the jars, I tried to get all the cardamom pods out, but couldn’t find them all.  Oh well 🙂  Someone might just get a burst of flavor! Feijoas 3